When it comes to indoor bike and cycling training, you now have several good options to consider. 10 years ago, you might have been limited to taking a spin class at a fitness club, or buying an old-fashioned turbo trainer. Today, thankfully, the choices are significantly expanded.
Regardless of which option you choose, your indoor training can be a great time to modify your workouts, do cycling intervals, and work on your technique. While it can be hard to be precise about your training on your outdoor rides, indoor training allows you to manage the intensity and workout type very closely.
There are five main indoor cycling options available to most people, depending on where you live. It should be noted that COVID is affecting some of these choices, but that should only be temporary.
Basic Turbo Trainer with Videos or Streaming Workout
This is training on the old-fashioned turbo trainers or even rollers, the kind that rely on friction between your bike tire and a roller. You can get a great workout on a fluid or turbo trainer (like these) and you often do them while watching a workout video. There is no connectivity or feedback on things like power or wattage, but it is an inexpensive way to stay in bike shape.
Pros: Inexpensive. In-home.. Use your own bike.
Cons: No connected experience or workout metrics. Gets boring without a video.
Smart Trainer with App
Smart trainers (like these) are becoming really popular. They basically take the concepts of the turbo trainers, but make then connect them with popular apps like Zwift or Sufferfest. The feedback from the trainer to the app and vice versa makes for a more metric-based and interesting indoor experience. But smart trainers cost a lot more than a regular trainer, but many will tell you that the extra cost is worth it because you will want to use it more often.
Pros: Connected, w/ full metrics. Many great apps and workouts. In-home. Use your own bike.
Cons: 3-4x as expensive as non-smart trainers. Need decent wi-fi to stream workouts.
Indoor Bike with integrated Service (e.g. Peloton)
Everyone has heard about Peloton, and several other options are hitting the market too. These services allow you to have a fully integrated cycling class experience from home. The downsides are that you don’t get to ride your own bike (you ride a stationary bike from them) and these services are expensive, but many swear by them.
Pros: Community experience, many classes to choose from. In-home.
Cons: Expensive, both initially and ongoing. Not training on our own bike.
Spin Class at Fitness Club
Fitness clubs around the country offer spin classes, and while COVID put a damper on these in 2020-2021, we expect them to come back strong. The classes are great for people who do best when motivated by a group and a coach, and if you are a member of a fitness club you might already be paying for them.
Pros: Often included in membership dues. Many classes w/ different intensities.
Cons: Can’t do it from home. Often riding on inferior bikes. Classes can fill up.
Boutique Cycling Studio Classes
Cycling studios like Soul Cycle offer more of a high-end, boutique spin class experience. They are great for people who prefer working out with others and have the budget for a larger recurring expense. The coaches are usually quite good, and the variety of classes is excellent. LIke fitness clubs, these studios are temporarily being impacted by COVID in many cases.
Pros: Skilled instructors, good variety of classes.
Cons: Expensive recurring cost. Not in-home. Can’t use your own bike.
Finding the right indoor cycling for you is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to the explosion of choices you now have. It is no substitute for riding outside, but it is a safer and more comfortable option during those times when the weather, light, or traffic isn’t conducive to outdoor rides.